My own thoughts Google Chrome OS

When google decided to create their own web browser a year ago, I was both sceptical and annoyed.  Did the world really need another web browser?  Couldn’t they just put that effort into Firefox?  What I hadn’t realized at the time was that Google was about to push the boundaries of what a web application is, and their is no way they could pull that off without some control of the browser.

Google has this really cool tech called GWT.  It basically lets you write a rich web application in Java and compile it into a AJAX application.  Javascript as machine code.  The cross browser stuff is in the compiler, so you don’t need to think about it when you write you application in Java.  If your whole business is writing really complex applications for the web, something like GWT is really a necessity.

If you want to see how far GWT can take you, check out Google Wave.  Real time key by key synchronization across the web to multiple users at once.  This isn’t the web we are used to, it’s something a bit different.  Once you start trying to use Wave for real, with a couple of people, you find out that your browser is totally overwhelmed by that much javascript.  Run it in Chrome, and life is a lot better.  Things load faster and are responsive in the way you expect a desktop application to be.  Seeing Google Wave in Chrome makes you start to realize the the idea of desktop on the web isn’t such a crazy idea.

The pundits have largely been missing the point.  While browser as operating system has been a concept since the late 90s (which was skillfully retarded by Microsoft by bundling a web browser that could never support that level of complexity), things are different now.  Over the last 5 years google has been slowly rolling out a set of applications, free to use, that already moved a lot of people fully to the web.  It’s hard to find someone without a gmail account at this point, and most of them are using it as their primary and only email.  Google docs is really nice, and I found that far more useful to collaborate on all my interactions with the outside world than the old “email a word doc” model. 

I get that a lot of people fear the cloud, and point to Microsoft’s fiasco with with Danger as a reason to distrust the cloud.  But Google isn’t Microsoft.  And more importantly, you know what happened before, people lost data.  Never in the history of computing up until the Danger computers crashed did people loose irreplaceable data on a computer.  Much like the fear of flying overwhelming people in a way that the much great risk of driving to the local store to get Milk doesn’t.  People with just the wrong amount of knowledge make very odd risk assessments.

The thing I’m most thrilled about is that Chrome OS is going to help us keep an open web, as least based on everything I’ve seen now.  It’s Linux, and the entire stack is going to be open.  That means it’s not going to support all the rich internet application alternatives being pushed by Microsoft and others.  Chrome OS is going to drive a lot more open standards on the web than any set of committee meetings ever would.  And that’s good for all us, regardless on whether or not we’re using Chrome OS to access the web.